Some of Georgia Tech’s position groups still have some growing pains to work through in the second year under Coach Geoff Collins. The running back group isn’t going to be one of those groups. It’s deep with returning veterans and talented newcomers eager to show their potential matches the hype.
Jordan Mason is back as the leader of the unit and it sees one player, Jerry Howard, swap positions with former linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling. Jamious Griffin earned early playing time his freshman season along with redshirt freshman Dontae Smith. With everyone back and Bruce Jordan-Swilling being a former RB recruit it will be hard for the younger guys to push for playing time.
Looking back at last year’s “Above The Line” charts showed 3 to 4 RBs and 3 Flex positions that were former A-backs under Paul Johnson. The players listed in the Flex didn’t see a whole lot of action and is most likely a spot used for reserves and specialists. So let’s look at who will be the main contributors in the backfield this season.
Jordan Mason | 6’1” 219lbs
2019: 172 Carries | 899 Yards | 5.2 Avg | 7 TDs
If you asked Coach Collins who the starter of this group is he would have to chuckle as he gave you his “We don’t have a starter” speech. Anyone familiar with Georgia Tech can tell you Jordan Mason is the workhorse of this unit. Mason nearly broke 1000 yards rushing in an offense that ranked 114th in time of possession. His offensive line struggled with creating gaps for him to get through, Mason still plowed through defenses gaining tough yards. Mason carried the offense in the win against North Carolina State when Georgia Tech saw it’s lead dwindling in the fourth quarter. With just over five minutes remaining Tech needed to keep possession away from the Wolfpack who only trailed by 2. NC State would never see the ball though as Mason ran seven of the nine plays to burn the clock out and give the Jackets a much-needed win in a rough season.
Jahmyr Gibbs | 5’11” 200lbs
Gibbs has yet to suit up for the Yellow Jackets but he has an undeniable talent that will be too good to leave on the sideline. At worst, the offense is much improved and the older RBs provide enough depth where Gibbs may only play in the maximum four games allowed to redshirt. It wouldn’t be a terrible scenario for the position group with Mason still having another year and giving an extra two-year gap between Gibbs and Griffin. Still, I just don’t see the coaching staff leaving him idle if he lives up to the billing of the 2nd overall RB of the 2019 class. Having Mason and Gibbs lead the charge could make for one of the toughest match-ups among ACC teams.
Bruce Jordan-Swilling | 6’1” 225lbs
2019: Played Linebacker with 27 Tackles and 1.5 Sacks
Bruce played both sides of the ball in high school and was highly recruited for both linebacker and running back positions. He would have fit in well in Paul Johnson’s system as a B-Back but instead opted to play linebacker under former defensive coordinator, Ted Roof. Some of that decision may have to do with his father, Georgia Tech great Pat Swilling, being former teammates with Roof. Tech’s offense could receive a boost with a running back built like Swilling in the backfield. He has the build of someone who can truck through a pile of bodies in short yard situations. Even if Mason isn’t on the field the defense won’t receive any less punishment trying to tackle Swilling.
Jamious Griffin | 5’10” 212lbs
2019: 37 Carries | 125 Yards | 3.4 Avg | 0 TDs
Griffin came to Georgia Tech as the first 4-star to commit under the new coaching staff. He saw some playing time in his first year spelling out Mason and was the fourth leading rusher on the team with James Graham and Tobias Oliver being 2nd and 3rd. The Miami game saw his highest total carries with eight, but his most yardage came against Georgia which was almost all of the final drive. Griffin will improve with another year but carries are going to start becoming scarce with so much depth at the position that he may not stand out until later in his career.
Some other guys who could see the field in situational roles are Dontae Smith, Tony Amerson, and Devin Ellison. Smith did see a few snaps last year before redshirting and served as a returner. I wouldn’t expect anyone in this group to be called on too often other than in special teams roles.